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Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, Shamus, Cyril Figgis. Edited by Baychel.
I made announcements at the top of the show, but I forgot the most important one: Next week we’re going to do a bunch of mailbag questions. Also, Baychel hasn’t really been introduced to the community except for the Crypt of the Necrodancer review, and the fact that she edits the podcast. So now’s your chance to get to know her. Ask some questions.
As always, the email address is in the image at the top of this post.
0:2:00: Streaming Television is a wasteland.
This was supposed to be a quick announcement, and instead it’s a five minute digression.
0:5:51: New Content!
I guess I should re-announce this here for the benefit of all you folks who read the site but ignore the media content: Bob Case (The Tasteful Understated Nerdrage guy) will be contributing to the site. He’s doing an analysis on Game of Thrones. The first entry should go up on Friday. Maybe if we’re really nice to him he’ll be willing to stick around and nitpick things for us.
0:7:51: New Game project!
MAYBE. A week from tomorrow I’m going to put it up for download and we’ll see what everyone thinks of it. It’s technically “done” in the sense of being feature-complete, but there’s a pretty long road between feature-complete and actually complete.
0:12:52: XCom 2
0:41:34: Chris is playing Steep
Apparently Uplay is getting better-ish?
0:51:33: Josh is playing competitive Overwatch
0:59:00: Crusader Kings
I don’t understand any of this but I’m sure it’s cool.
A screencap comic that poked fun at videogames and the industry. The comic has ended, but there's plenty of archives for you to binge on.
Lost Laughs in Leisure Suit Larry
Why was this classic adventure game so funny in the 80's, and why did it stop being funny?
If Star Wars Was Made in 2006?
Imagine if the original Star Wars hadn't appeared in the 1970's, but instead was pitched to studios in 2006. How would that turn out?
A video discussing Megatexture technology. Why we needed it, what it was supposed to do, and why it maybe didn't totally work.
Quakecon Keynote 2013 Annotated
An interesting but technically dense talk about gaming technology. I translate it for the non-coders.
173 thoughts on “Diecast #185: Xcom 2, Steep, Overwatch Competitive”
Shamus is ron cadillac.
Mumbles is lana.The competent one.
And Rutskarn is….Hmmm,Id say ray because he is blond and thin,but he isnt cool and suave enough to be ray.Barry.Rutskarn is definitely barry.
For some reason I see Mumbles as more of a Cheryl/Carol with a dash of Pam.
I hadn’t heard this part of the show yet and already I was thinking Josh was Krieger.
But actually Josh is the closest to Archer. They’re both a little nuts but Archer is much more laid back in his dickery and everyone else is pissed off at him for that reason.
Ah,but archer is skilled,and his incompetence comes from his aloofness,not actual lack of competence.When he is set on doing something,he can actually do it.He doesnt stop right near the end.
Not finishing something just to troll everyone? That sounds pretty Archer to me.
Holly shit!So not only will you provide us with a (hopefully) regular MrBtongue,but we will finally discuss the game of russian roulette on the blog proper,and not just in the seedy underbelly of the forums.Somebody punch me,I must be dreaming.
Please form an orderly queue for punching Daemian Lucifer…
It’s amazing that TUN is here. I was expecting him to maybe return to the Diecast some time, not to suddenly create content for the site. Love your videos, man!
It’s like my birthday and Christmas at the same time!
If it helps,I liked your text only shooter puzzler,so Id be ok with you making a puzzle game.
Nobody talking about arkham does not mean nobody cares.It just doesnt flow naturally into other conversations.
The biggest problem with xcoms is that they are heavily stacked against you.In the originals,the enemy had stronger units than you,with better equipment,better line of sight and better abilities.But you at least had the numbers,and everyone was operating by the same rules.So if you encountered a new species of extraterrestrials,they sure would surprise you in a nasty way(and only on their turn),even to the point of easily wiping out your whole squad(damn sectoids!).But even then,that wouldnt be an immediate loss for you,because you still had plenty of men to send to the grinder,they would quickly level up through the ranks,and what made the elites so much more powerful than the rookies was mostly their equipment,not their level.A green soldier would still be able to fire off that volley of plasma balls just like a seasoned veteran.The only difference was that the more experienced soldier could do other stuff after firing the volley,and they didnt need to spend so much ammo to get that fatal hit.
In the remakes however,the enemies still have stronger soldiers,better tech and more devastating abilities,but now they also posses the numerical advantage,and dont play by the same rules as you.So now,encountering a new species of extraterrestrials usually means you have to reload,once you learn what the nasty surprise is.Also,your elite team is much more precious,because you cant just advance that rookie quickly by having them blast a bunch of extraterrestrials with rapid fire weapons,you have to get them through several missions.And those elites provide you with crucial abilities you cannot obtain by just making more equipment,you have to level up your soldiers.Not to mention that once your soldier is down,they are down.You cannot just pick up their unconscious body and get them to the evac zone if you dont have a way to heal them on site.
Xcom 2 is even worse in that it adds a timer to most of the missions,making the game even more stacked against you,on top of all that other bullshit.So now you cannot even slug your way through the map,carefully inching forward,which already was tedious and difficult in the first remake due to the condensation of movement into just two moves instead of the granulation it originally had.
You can literally pick up bleeding out and unconscious soldiers and carry them to the evac to save them.
I wish XCOM 2 just had a ‘bonus’ if you managed to do a mission on time. So you were punished if you missed the timer, but if you were locked down and going through a slog, you weren’t forced to lose troops to win the mission.
I feel XCOM 2 tried to have the best of both worlds, leveling up troops that became invaluable, but then throwing you into places were you constantly had to risk them. I love the game, but I can’t play it on ironman like I did the first one, and because of that I have not gone back to it. It’s simply too stressful with the timers.
The timers thing baffles me because they already solved the “How do we incentivize the player to advance at a reasonable pace” problem, and it was called Meld. Meld was a beautifully deep incentive that forced you to reevaluate the situation turn-by-turn, and felt good when you succeeded rather than bad when you failed. The timers are a crude feel-bad mechanic that adds no depth, it feels like the games were published out of order and Meld should be the sequel that improves on the flawed original idea.
Except Meld didn’t really solve it, because it was optional and relatively unimportant most people got Meld if it was convenient rather than if it was risky.
The timer is there to force the player to have to make risky plays at times and for me it worked, maybe I was just playing at a lower difficulty but for me I never failed a mission because the timer ran out. It certainly ran low and applied pressure to my actions, but it never ran out.
Yes, similar here, but at the same time the hard timers made me rush through the game. I didn’t get to stop and explore, or try out different tactics or engage the enemies in tense, protracted firefights much. It was always run run blast blast, oh look they’re dead before I got an impression of their capabilities.
Meld worked a lot better because it wasn’t mandatory. If you wanted the time, you could still carefully craft ambushes, and you’d loose a little bit of an optional resource.
The really big problem that Firaxis tried to solve with the timers, was that moving 6 troopers up to overwatch with no enemies in sight was boring. But the answer wasn’t to make players rush instead, it was to find a way to remove the empty turns that their pod mechanic imposed on the game (directly by pods on big maps being spaced out and indirectly because the fear of activating too many pods is what keeps the player in place and thus having to move up more after the pod is defeated).
Seems like they should have just removed the whole notion of pods from the game entirely. They make the AI play by different rules than the player (turn-1 rush to cover), and incentivize boring gameplay.
They do easily portion out the AI’s assets so it doesn’t overwhelm the player without looking too dumb in the process.
It’s also what the board games do that served as inspiration.
Pre mission scouting and the tweaking to the sensors mechanic wouldve solved the empty turns problem in a better way.Invest resources into some pre mission scouting,and you get the initial location of all the enemies.There,now you can rush all your guys into perfect ambush positions.Add sensors that can detect movement,infrared,or other stuff like that,and there you have it,you can set up ambushes much more effectively.And those are just raw,off the top of my head ideas.
To add to this, XCOM 2’s mission timers force you to push harder than Meld did, but it’s also important to keep in mind that the addition of Concealment gives you dramatically more ability to manage those timers. You can more freely double-move units on the first turn or two, and you can likewise fan out and prep flanks rather than playing Line Of Sight Conga Line to avoid triggering a pod. Meld was an awkward add-on that kinda-sorta spackled over the pacing problem. Mission timers are thoughtfully integrated with a number of the game’s other systems and objectives. They’re very different beasts.
Thats only true half of the time.Other half of the time,you will get spotted mid move by some civilian or an alien around a corner that seemed clear from where you were before.
This has happened to me maybe twice over the course of multiple playthroughs. It’s annoying when it happens, but it’s predictable and you have plenty of tools to deal with it. IE – watch out for corners, pay attention to what kind of map type you’re on (City centers have a lot of civilians, small towns and slums have a few, others have basically none), move your units in a thoughtful order, take advantage of movement waypoints, and use scans (either via the Battle Scanner item or Specialist ability, both available very early on) if you absolutely are confronted by a blind corner that may have whammies hiding behind it.
Now that you’ve drawn first meme blood, I’m contractually obligated to instruct you to git gud.
Again,you are assuming that vision will work correctly.But it doesnt when you climb a building.It has happened to me multiple times,and as shown by the lets play,it has happened to Rutskarn as well.If they have fixed this by now,thats great.But when I played it,vision was buggy as hell.And so were the ambushes because of that.
Don’t climb onto roofs blind – or descend them blind, for that matter. If you don’t know what’s directly beneath a vertical drop, assume a pod or a snoopy civilian. Try and avoid travelling further than the soldier you moved first if you can possibly avoid it.
Vision generally works fine, you’ve just got to understand and respect its rules. This again feels like the game not properly communicating a mechanic rather than an innate problem with the mechanic itself.
The problem isnt that you didnt scout the place you are going to,but that the scouting information was wrong.Like not seeing an alien directly below you,even though the soldier is leaning over the roof.Or when the “will be in sight” blip shows up,and then when you arrive,you find out that you dont have sight after all.And assortment of bugs/”features” like that.
What you’re talking about is taking more time again, though. Concealment is a neat mechanic. But the timer and pod mechanics get in its way. You can’t explore for ways around the enemy, because you need to rush. You are encouraged not to surround the enemy because the more you spread out the more likely you are to activate more pods than you can handle.
The last part is the big problem. Because activating pods only one at a time is strictly better than more at once, players will feel pushed to not take risks. They’ll progress slowly, they won’t spread out much, they won’t use the melee class aggressively.
The timer just forces them to rush, but still doesn’t allow for clever manoeuvring, even hinders it. It solves part of the problem, but also makes the other part worse.
Meld was unimportant on lower difficulties,not so on higher ones.
Which meld abilities did you find vital? Mechs are an almost complete waste of time in my experience, and only a handful of gene mods ever seemed valuable. Super jumps were the only one I ever put a priority on, maybe 1 guy with Bioelectric Skin to scout and spot stealthed Seekers. Adrenal Glands is neat but not super important, eye mods are neat but not super important, brain mods are a complete waste, Mimetic Skin is good but crazy expensive and incompatible with the Ghost Armor you will be using later on.
But the bigger issue is, again, as a bolt-on addition, gene mods require money, power, and base excavation space/time, all of which you absolutely do not have to spare. That further slots meld toys into mid-late game luxuries rather than transformative changes to the core gameplay.
Unless you start collecting meld early on,you wont have enough to borgify everyone you want by the time you unlock the things you need.So yes,you have to scamper early on if you wish to stay on the curve later on.
I rushed Mimetic Skin and found it gamebreakingly powerful. Don’t think of it as incompatible, it’s better than Ghost Armor because it frees you to equip armour with better stats to your stealth dudes (also unlike Ghost Armor, it has infinite uses). The rest of the gene mods were very minor, essentially “Things to do with Meld once everyone has Mimetic Skin”.
That’s fair – stealth is rad, and it’s certainly possible to get Mimetic Skin earlier in the game than Ghost Armor if you’re willing to cut cash elsewhere. But getting the upgrade makes me a little cranky because there isn’t better armor than ghost to equip. Here are the end-game armor statlines.
Titan Armor: +10 HP, fire + poison + strangle immune
Archangel: +8 HP, flight, fire + poison immune, +20% defense while flying
Ghost: +6 HP, +20% defense, fire + poison immune, grapple, on-demand stealth, +3 movement
Psi: +6 HP, +10% defense, +20 Will, +2 movement.
Adding unlimited (but conditional) stealth to the others is really, really good, but ghost armor’s extra defense is worth more than the extra HP (and can be combined with cover, unlike archangel’s) and the movement points are tremendously valuable offensively. Even with Mimetic Skin, I wouldn’t outfit my team with anything but ghost armor, and at that point I find myself asking whether I really need stealth more than twice a mission.
Going full Mimetic Skin lets you end every turn invisible, which plays fundamentally differently than having limited invis on demand. Starting every engagement with a volley of perfectly positioned +30% crit shots is fantastic. On raw stats, Ghost Armor is the best, but its fantastic defensive capabilities get less relevant when you’re already stealthing everything, which opens up using Archangel for its mobility (though I still like a mix, Ghost Armour’s bonus speed is great).
I’d never give a sniper Ghost armor if I have the option of giving them Archangel. A sniper with Squadsight, Damn Good ground, and Archangel armor is a death god. Add In the Zone, and a single sniper can carry the whole team. Without moving more than 2 turns from the landing zone if it’s an outdoor map.
I always gene mod their eyes too. The aim boost is minor by itself, but so is the aim boost from SCOPEs and abilities. Together though, they add up. If you’re only looking at the individual boosts in isolation, almost every numerical upgrade in the game can be framed as almost useless. You’re supposed to stack and/or synergize to enhance (or create) specialist roles.
Mech troopers have a lot going for them too. I feel like anyone who thinks they’re useless probably hasn’t even tried. They don’t start to get good until they’re at least halfway leveled and up the mech suit tech tree, at which point they become fantastic anti-heavy and crowd control units. Even at early levels though, they have strong advantages like being immune to poison and panic (and later, mind control). Take the “lead By Example” perk from the officer’s school and put a mech trooper at the head of the squad, and all negative will stat effects vanish from gameplay.
I always liked the brain mod that made your soldiers deal damage back to anyone trying to psychically mess with them. It made for great traps: wound a sectoid commander about halfway, let him try to mind-control your soldier on his turn (which he’d usually prioritize), watch him die to the mental backlash. I never played on anything harder than normal, though.
Haven’t played it, going by what I’ve heard, grains of salt.
The problem is not people wanting to play slowly, the problem is people who want to play fast thinking it isn’t worth it. There are a several ways to solve that without forcing everyone to go faster. Meld worked fine; you have a resource that will disappear, so fast players get rewarded. Another option is reinforcement waves; after x turns, more aliens show up, and again every x/2 turns after that. Now you’ve got the option to rush and deal with everything fast, or dig in and take on a lot more threats.
If you’re going to have hard timer missions, you should have some timers that work the other way as well; if you have to complete a mission in under 8 turns, make a mission where you have to hold a position for 15 turns. Cripple every style equally. (Fast missions can be stuff like capturing an enemy commander during a facility inspection, slow missions can be gaining local support by sticking around long enough for civilians to hear about your presence.)
It wasn’t so much people “wanting to play slowly”, but that playing “slowly” (advancing cautiously to minimise how many pods you opened and minimising the number of effective turns the aliens could take by dealing with each pod thoroughly) was a degenerate strategy (it was the best thing to do basically all the time so you didn’t need to try anything else), so they put in a timer to disrupt the degenerate strategy by making it fail the mission.
But that just led to a new degenerate strategy which was to maximise explosives and cheese AI behaviours (like how a Sectoid will [i]always[/i] waste a turn raising a zombie if there’s a corpse available, and the zombie dies when the sectoid does so it has no effect, or shutting down mechs with a specialist so they’re out of the fight and you can deal with them when their friends are dead).
It does mean you will more frequently have more than one pod open, but you’re basically doing the same as you did before of minimising contact and minimising the usable units on the alien turn, because that’s still the best thing to do.
(And it’s not like old UFO didn’t have degenerate strategies, there was no range increment on accuracy so the best thing to do was have your shooters at the back of the map and only move into new territory with your tank which had lots of TUs and tended to win the reaction roll, and then shoot with someone outside of the aliens’ vision range which they couldn’t react to)
What baffles me is that they insist on the ‘scamper’-mechanic. I found it stupidly unfair in EU and it is still unfair. The aliens get a free movement on your turn, as soon as you see them. That means they are always prepared and in cover, no matter from which direction you attack them. On the other hand, if a patrol surprises your team from behind, not only do you not get a free movement to adapt, they get an additional movement. Granted, in vanilla they could not attack in that turn, but LW2 changed that…
This is a massive concession towards the player. If aliens followed normal player movement patterns, they would still always be in cover, and they’d be on overwatch every turn. Instead of your soldier moving up and “giving them free moves,” they’d be moving up and getting instantly turned to swiss cheese. The scamper is explicitly a bullshit prevention mechanism.
Also bear in mind that there are plenty of ways to circumvent or take advantage of this. They don’t scamper far, so a Heavy/Demolitions unit can typically blow up the cover for at least 2 of them, if not the entire pod. And they only react to units that they can see, giving you easy flanks if you’re breaching a room from two entry points. And XCOM2 adds concealment to further take advantage of this, both via ambush mechanics and through Ranger abilities that let you prolong or refresh stealth abilities throughout the mission. There are a lot of tools to deal with the scamper, and getting rid of it would not improve the game in general and especially would not improve it in the way you want.
This, I have more sympathy for, but it was actually a change made to the core game shortly after release because of how trivially easy it made ambushes, not a LW2 alteration.
Unless they had kept X-COM’s reaction fire mechanic where your reflexes are based on how far you moved that turn, making it possible to scout someone without triggering their overwatch.
Damn boardgamified XCOM.
Also, it’s not strictly a bullshit prevention mechanic. You can trigger a pod, then have them scamper out of sight. So you end up with a bunch of aliens who are “aggroed” on you but out of sight therefore impervious to harm until their turn rolls around and they get to charge you (as opposed to just random-walking if they didn’t know your position). I grant that overall it’s much more generous than “Aliens are overwatched every turn” but don’t try to spin it as strictly positive.
Aliens very rarely scamper out of sight unless there’s no cover to be had immediately around them. They’re programmed to act aggressively (this behaviour is tweaked in LW2/ABA2, so they are infuriatingly unsuicidal), so the most common reason they would charge out of sight is that another pod has taken all the best spots nearby – in which case, you’re a significant distance up sewage stream without a means of momentum anyway.
I find that scampering out of sight mostly happens when the pod has the bad luck to spawn right next to a LOS-blocking wall: whenever that happens there’s a decent chance that the random cover they scamper to will be behind the wall.
XCOM 2012 anyway, I’ve barely played XCOM 2016 so I don’t have a good feel for how pods work in that one.
Pods are basically the same, but grenadiers (the new heavies) can now use their explosives after moving. So in the example you describe, it’d be a tiny bit easier to get someone in position to blow up the wall they’re hiding behind to expose them for the rest of your team. And for the most corner of corner cases, XCOM2 allows you to target red barrel-y map objects directly and shoot them with 100% accuracy, rather than just happening to blow them up with missed shots. So if they duck behind cover that happens to be nearby a propane tank, you have yet another way of exposing them.
While that may hold true for xcom1,it does not hold true for 2,where they are just patrolling a city,not expecting anyone to come by.Or they are hunting civilians,again not expecting anyone to oppose them.
This pretty much sums up my feelings on the mechanic – the aliens would not constantly be in cover. In fact, the patrol-cutscenes that play right before the pod scampers shows the aliens in a slow, lazy patrol, indicating they’re not expecting an ambush.
Oh wow. I was never that interested in these games because you cannot play as the aliens, but after reading this, I wouldn’t even play it for free. I can’t even decide which I hate more – enemies not playing by the rules, DIAS gameplay, or mission timers (I am generally the slow+methodical type of player in all things strategy).
There was a fairly cool fan project, I believe it was called UFO: The Two Sides or something along these lines, with a goal to make the first game (I mean the actual first, the old one, not the current one… for the love of, these naming schemes are getting confusing) with both sides playable and even allow for a versus multiplayer (as in, on the campaign scale, not just the tactical battles like in the new games). I believe they had the alien mechanics pretty much implemented (since the xcom stuff was already in the original game and didn’t require much figuring out) though no AI for the Xcom side when they were hit by one of those cease and desist things. You can probably still find the files floating around the web though you can’t really do a “campaign” game with the aliens as xcom will be non-responsive… no idea what was the actual state of the multiplayer at the point the project was cancelled.
TUN on twentysided? Game of Thrones analysis by a booksnob?
*High-pitched sounds of intense glee*
Seconded. I am a huge booksnob myself, but no one I know is interested in listening to me babble about why one of their favorite shows isn’t as good as a bunch of books with an increasingly erratic release schedule that they probably don’t have any interest in reading in the first place. So I live in envy of more articulate ranters like Bob, who have actually found a forum to express their opinions constructively, to people who actually want to hear them.
Sometimes I dream of being able to explain why Wyman Manderly should have a bigger role or how Bronze Yohn is horribly miscast without sounding like the comic book guy from the Simpsons.
The books may be better overall in their plot and pacing,but the show has:
I want to see if he has anything to say about the title change. Game of Thrones has quite different implications than a Song of Ice and Fire.
Well… not as good as three of the books, anyway :) YMMV of course, but the FfC and DwD were not exactly high points for the series.
My understanding is that he originally intended for there to be a time 5-year gap at or near the end of SOS, during which Dany and the surviving Stark kids would all age a bit, master some new skills, and maybe recruit more allies. But for whatever reason he was forced to abandon that idea (I’m guessing because he couldn’t come up with a good reason for Stannis to just hang out in the North for five years and because it would make the threat of the White Walker invasion seem way less urgent). As a result, we ended up with this weird paradox where some of the storylines are progressing way too fast, while others are taking way too long.
I actually like a lot of the new storylines introduced in the later books, but I agree the pacing is a big letdown compared to the earlier volumes.
The reason he abandoned the timeskip was that he got halfway through writing what was going to be the fourth book and realised that most of what he’d written was flashbacks.
I liked AFfC because it began fleshing out areas and POVs of the kingdom we hadn’t seen before.
The kingsmoot on the Iron Islands was cool, I liked Brienne’s errantry quest and septon Merribald, I liked finally getting Cersei’s POV, I liked the interplay between Jon and Stannis at the Wall, I liked Arianne Martell and the Dorne chapters, Theon’s redemption was powerful and I loved Jamie’s continued character arc. While Alayne’s story didn’t get so far yet, the preview chapter from A Dream of Spring made me giddy, so lit looks like it’s going places.
I’m more mixed about ADwD, but I still think it’s got its good spots.
Barristan’s chapters were good, seeing Tyrion almost hit rock bottom was interesting and I want to see where his character develops, the Mummer’s Dragon was a cool plot twist
AFfC and ADwD look to be the calm between the storms. They’re used for mop-up after the mess created by the last two books and I think we got a lot of cool stuff out of them that was overlooked during the intense war & politics of the predecessors.
Yeah, maybe Shamus is just really good at making friends, but he has an amazing ability find people who’s content he likes and then pull them into to Twenty Sided Blogosphere.
This works for most things if you ask me.
Also, Josh, it was Caligua, not Nero. Incinatus was Caligula’s horse. Since every Roman historian hated Caligula with a passion (we don’t know exactly why, since no sources not written by Roman historians survive about Caligula and they were all interested in painting him in the worst possible light) we will never know if it’s true or not.
Also the Bishop horse does wear the Bishop hat. (Character portrait on the top-left)
He inherited his wealth and power and he wore an ugly toupée.
*cough* Please no current politics memes */cough*
Well Caligula did inherit his wealth and power from his great-uncle and prior emperor Tiberius (and also from the estate of his dead father Germanicus) so that part is right. I’m afraid there’s no mention of any toupées in the Roman histories however. I mean, mental illness, reign of terror, horse consulship, possible incest, and challenging the English Channel to a fight, yes. Toupees, not so much.
They doubtless just forgot to mention it in the wake of all that stuff you brought up. Easy to forget little details like that.
*cough* alternative facts *cough*
Why else would he have this strap on his head if not to hold his toupée down?
Mmm. Delicious XCom salt.
The true strength of XCom 2, and what makes it far, far better than any of the others in the series, is that it’s moddable, and has a large community that has turned out a solution to pretty much any complaint you might have about the base game. Which makes whinges about the timers grate a bit.
Personally even before LW2 made its appearance last week I had installed a bunch of mods to soup up the difficulty, because my primary complaint about it is that, as with EU/EW, after about month two the game becomes a total walk in the park. Six well-levelled soldiers can deal with absolutely anything, even accounting for surprises (most enemy specials aren’t anywhere near as devastating as advertised here).
Do you have some recommended mods, both for ramping up difficulty and for addressing some of the most common complaints about the game? I've never played, but what I've seen of Long War 2 has me thinking seriously about buying the game, installing LW2, and literally making that my introduction to XCOM.
I can’t speak for Long War 2, but having played LW1, I must say I wouldn’t recommend it as an introduction to XCOM. I respect the work put into LW1 and I enjoyed my time with it (after tweaking the ini files a little), but it has a trait I have found in many mods over the years:
The creators have a very specific vision as to what makes a game enjoyable, and that vision isn’t always one that would have brought a game much financial success in the market. It’s niche appeal. (Which is fantastic if you’re in the niche, but by no means does ‘liked the base game’ auto translate into ‘will like this mod).
For the record, my issue with LW1 was the ratio of missions needing to be played vs progress in the geoscape. If I can get through 2-3 missions in a good play session, that’d mean 2-3 sessions per major event on the geoscape. That killed the ‘fight something-> reseach it-> build it-> fight with the new thing against something newer’ feedback loop that I consider to be the strength of XCOM.
As I said, I managed to tweak the ini files and the dynamic war setting to get it to where I wanted (and props to the creators for including that option!).
If you’re going for LW2 as a first, I hope it works out for you, though!
There were some interesting posts on the XCOM subreddit about timers and LW2, they have a specific campaign time range they are aiming for and timers help to ensure that there are more relatively fast missions rather than the long drawn brawls which LW1 often had.
This is why they have more stealthy missions and ones focused around specific objectives, but the timer is there to give that extra push and keep the momentum up.
Woof. Don’t really recommend going into LW2 cold, firstly because it piles huge amounts of complexity and difficulty on top of the existing foibles of X2, and secondly because you might not fully appreciate what the Pavlonis dudes have done without at least trying the base game.
Here are some mods I think are essential and don’t affect the core gameplay: Gotcha, Evac All, Overwatch All, Stop Wasting My Time, Additional Icons, Long War Toolkit.
Timer Tweaks simply adds 4 turns to every mission timer and 2 to UFO Landings. I never had much of a problem with countdowns until I installed ABA2, but this is the simplest solution I’ve found to what is obviously a large complaint for lots of players.
Here are some mods that significantly change the game, mostly by making it harder and more expansive: A Better Advent 2, Long War Perk Pack (NOTE: strongly advise you to use the Toolbox to turn your squad size up some if you use the former), Grimy’s Morale Mod, Notoriety, Grimy’s Loot Mod.
You can find all of this stuff on the Steam Workshop, and probably Nexus as well. The game is considerably tougher with all this added in, but also in its own way more sustainable, because you get a lot more options. Even so, it still isn’t as complex and game-changing as LW2 is.
Agreed; Long War is its own beast that’s informed by XCOM, not a direct enhancement of it by any stretch. Start with the base game, then read up on LW, decide if you’re interested in what it adds, and go from there.
Likewise, I’ll second that list of usability mods (though I’m not actually sure whether Stop Wasting My Time is worthwhile anymore; Zip Mode in the default options seems to accomplish a lot of the same stuff) and add True Retroactive AWC into the mix. Technically it does make your squad marginally more powerful, but it does so by removing uncertainty stemming from the early game economy crunch. You may still choose to level additional units in hopes of getting better bonus perks, but you’ll never get a Sharpshooter up to Colonel only to find that he missed his chance at a bonus perk entirely.
Ooh didn’t know about Zip Mode, will try that in future.
“Which makes whinges about the timers grate a bit.”
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to review a game based on the actual game, made by the actual developers, as opposed to a range of alternate games you can play with some research, effort, and fan modifications.
RE: The timers, and specifically how they interact with secondary objectives. The game doesn’t tell you this *takes a shot* but you totally can choose to complete the primary objective (e.g. grab the item, hack the workstation, etc.) and bug out rather than killing everyone patronizing the local Advent Burger. Doing so will prevent the aliens’ Dark Event from taking place, you’ll just miss out on the one-time reward (supplies, intel, engineer, etc.) associated with the mission. Similarly, Capture the VIP missions award you supplies and intel if you subdue and capture the VIP, but only give supplies if you kill the VIP.
Basically, if you’re having a difficult time with the timers (independently of liking them or not) there is a tiered success metric associated with them that can alleviate some of the pressure you’re feeling.
a) I really don’t think the developers intended for most players to use Ironman. The way the save system in non-Ironman is couched, it’s obvious they were sensitive to the fact most players would want to reload if they felt the game was being unfair for whatever reason. It even retains an auto-save from before your last mission, so you can entirely regenerate it if you wish. It’s a masochism option, so you complaining about the fact the game becomes masochistic for you seems a bit like tying one hand behind your back and then complaining about how hard it is for you to hold onto anything.
b) Given you’re already playing the game in a way not intended for your experience bracket, the research, time and effort required to play, not an alternative game but the same game only objectively better, is really small. The premise here is that I want you to have a good time with a game I’ve personally enjoyed a lot, mang. I’m certain Shamus doesn’t play his choice of Civ without at least some mods.
We could limit the debate to your opinion about the vanilla game, I understand your reason for that, but I don’t particularly agree with you there either. Mostly because I think the timers do a decent job of chivvying the player along, and married to Concealment rarely feel unfair. If, y’know, you’re playing the XCom way.
So what you are saying is that they deliberately made a difficulty that makes the game worse?Id call that a design flaw.
Also,any argument that basically boils down to “you are not enjoying it because you are playing it wrong” is false by default.
Personally every time the developers make effort to give the player actual options to play the game the way they want to I call it a good thing. I’m definitely not going to partake in a foreseeable future since it would drive me up the wall but I do not consider the fact that the game has an optional difficulty/mode that is very much not suited for me a fault.
The whole “playing the right way”… let’s just not go there. It is an interesting topic about how different players look for different things in games, one of which can be a sense of achievement coming from overcoming difficulty through learning or mastering an aspect of game mechanics or system, that turned into horrible flamewar fuel.
Not sure if this is the best place to mention it, but do please pass along that Rachel’s website appears to be down. Just a default hosting page at the moment.
I just giggled like a teenage girl… Tasteful Understated Nerdrage… Game of Thrones… I feel faint… this is awesome.
I’ve barely watched Game of Thrones so thats a little disappointing. I wish he was writing the sort of content we get on TUN.
But I’m excited about the prospect of this site getting an influx of his fans. There’s gotta be solid overlap. Though the irony is, they’ll probably like Shamus’s long form series more than what Case will be writing here.
Now we just need Joseph Anderson and Matthewmatosis.
Oh thats good news.
I’m not disappointed: I’m excited!
I also could never get into the books or the HBO version. Looked like too much work. But the TUN on the series made it sound a lot more interesting, suddenly. If anyone can convert me to George R. R. Martin, it is MrBTongue.
Re: Streaming services: Have you considered piracy*? I turned to it after concluding that Netflix’s selection was garbage (if you think you have it bad, try living outside America where Netflix’s selection is even worse), and I can think of one thing in the last year that I wasn’t able to find in at most two minutes. Do you have ethical reservations, or is it just something you’ve never bothered with?
Man, Gabe Newell was right, piracy is about convenience.
*I don’t know the American law that well, but I believe that unlicensed streams of copyrighted material are illegal on behalf of the uploader, but not actually illegal to view.
This was about videogame piracy, but a large bet on the same applying would presumably be pretty safe:
“…but I don't condemn people who take other approaches”
And your point is? Ninety-Three’s question was: “have you considered piracy?” Not: “have you considered piracy and how do you feel about people who engage in it?”
Netflix is the butt of TV services. Most of its shows, even the drama ones, are too funny to be taken seriously. For the most part, I watch Youtube more than I watch Netflix anyways.
Arkham and Dark Souls? I remember this conversation from somewhere, probably the Arkham Asylum spoiler warning. I’m sure I could find the episode from how the comment section has 200 comments instead of 40.
I’m happy about this, anyway. Thought you were gonna do Fallout 4, which I’ve frankly seen enough of. We don’t necessarily see eye to eye on stuff like the combat, but I still quite like Arkham City and Asylum. And I love Dark Souls, too.
But while you’re probably gonna compare them in terms of difficulty/punishment for failure, I urge you to try and squeeze in some Metal Gear Rising or something there. The Arkham games combat doesn’t fail for me in comparison to methodic, stamina-management based Action JRPGs. It fails for me in comparison to beat ’em ups like Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising, which also do group combat and single bosses with colorful personalities, and manages to do both much better(at as easy a difficulty as you’d like).
I’m p. sure there was an old Escapist column where Shamus compared the way Dark Souls requires you to git gud with how Arkham makes you feel good for having done so. I’d argue that the level of satisfaction available in the two systems is radically different though. Holding a long and varied combo in Arkham might feel good for a bit, but absent the high stakes it doesn’t have the same sense of accomplishment, because you didn’t [i]need[/i] that 40 hit combo to get through the fight.
(I would also contend that the combat system of the Arkham games falls to bits outside of the Batman vs mooks fights. The bosses are generally pretty bad, and the Titan enhanced goons are bleh. It’s really good at [i]one thing[/i], and it’s the lowest stakes thing in the game.
That’s also why Asylum is still the best one, because the intricate explorable environment was way better than the sprawling but far less interesting open cities. See also: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kvbnc-7Y0fE)
Might have been the one comparing Arkham to Shadow of Mordor. Dark Souls gets a paragraph partway through:
You can’t argue that the level of satisfaction is different without experience of being someone else. You could argue that the type of satisfaction is different, though.
Shadow of Mordor moreso mimicks the Assassin’s Creed franchise than anything.
Agreed! For instance, because you don’t need the big combos, I ended up playing the Arkham games on easy and barely squeaking by, because I just could not be arsed to “git gud.” Still enjoyed the game, but the brawls were my least favorite part.
No such option on Dark Souls. Ended up spending a ridiculous amount of time on a single play through. You’d think it was wasted time, but I enjoyed most of it, and even though I sucked all the way through it, I felt rewarded by the game with my incremental progress. And then, once or twice, I managed to get to a new area and reach a bonfire without dying once, thanks to an over-abundance of caution, and I felt on top of the world. In some respect, I found the game very forgiving (I died a lot but it was seldom a big loss) and respectful of less-skilled player (you can cheese your way through a lot of challenges without ever feeling like you’re playing the game wrong).
As for the perspective I was trying to give, in regards to other beat ’em ups: Most of them use the combo meter, too, and grades and rewards you based on how well you did. But Bayonetta also boasts tons of enemy variety, an incredible movelist, a combination of weak and heavy attacks that work equally well on bosses as it does on groups(and for extra big bosses, they gain additional power), an instantaneous dodge and counter and lots of different weaponry and ways to use them.
And like Batman, you don’t have to be great at that system to get through it. I love beat ’em ups, but I’m BAD at games, I get easily excited and basically just fumble and mash. Pure Platinum is the best grade in Bayonetta, and I squeaked through with bronzes and silvers. But I have a lot more fun mashing through a game with a good, varied system with some depth than I have mashing my way through Arkham’s four or whatever enemy types, with no decision on what attacks to do besides special moves.
For the record, my experience with Dark Souls is that I’m bad at those games too, but I still have fun playing them. Looking stuff up makes them a lot easier. I had watched several let’s plays before playing the first one, and I could basically just run through a normally later area straight to the blacksmith. Co-op also helps, both helping others in order to grind souls without danger and summoning others to help me get through a level. I do play solo sometimes, but I definitely don’t have it in me to do a whole playthrough alone.
It was nice watching my flatmate do so for his first time through, though. I would sit next to him and give him tips when he was frustrated or explain game systems the game didn’t make clear to him, and occasionally do music playlists since Dark Souls doesn’t do background music in levels.
Dark Souls, while by no means an easy game, has always been somewhat over-exaggerated in terms of its difficulty. Don’t do stupid shit, always be on your guard, don’t get greedy, don’t aggro multiple enemies at the same time and you’re basically good to go for vast majority of it.
I always got the impression Shamus never actually played Dark Souls, he just inherently objects to its principles and design. And even then it’s less the actual principles and game design and more just the erroneously repeated bullshit.
Part 3 of the Arkham series will talk about this at length, so it would be a waste to get into it now. But for the record: I have indeed played it. Did not enjoy it.
True,you dont need it to get through that one fight.But bigger combos give bigger rewards,allowing you to get more toys to help you get through the later fights easier.Of course,you can just brute force even those later fights,but it will be tedious if you dont upgrade all you have.
Not true for city though.
It’s absolutely still true for City. That system is awful for single person bosses(Which is every Batman villain), so they have to either throw in more mooks(Harley Quinn, Two-Face and Mad Hatter are mooks ONLY) or limit your interaction jump-dodging, maybe while throwing a single item at the boss. For Solomon Grundy, you jump at the right time to have him hit panels in the ground. For Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, charging titan guys or Bane, you throw a batarang and jump out of the way. For
Clayfaceand Ra’s, it’s somehow both, you throw and dodge for their big phase and then they throw a bunch of mooks at you. And besides “Mook fights” or “Dodge and throw”, they’re all “event” bosses. Mr. Freeze is a stealth section guy who keeps getting up and can’t be hurt by the same thing twice. Scarecrow is a freaking platforming section(but throws in some mook fights too).
The point is, for everything besides mooks, the game just abandons the whole combat system because it sucks if there aren’t guys to easily bounce off and build combos on.
I think the fight with Joker in Arkham City is by far the best one. It’s just another mook fight, but as established mook fights are the only thing the system is useful for. Joker is in there, one of the Hammer and Sickle twins is in there, and there are weird stage hazards with the toy trains. It’s a fun fight. Mr. Freeze is the second best because the stealth system is fun(and all about working on single opponents ) and he’s a good opponent in it. I barely remember the Catwoman Two-Face boss or Deadshot because you spend most of those fight sneaking up on them just once while dealing with mooks, but with Freeze you do it again and again with only him.
Maybe there are some better fights in Arkham Knight and Origins I don’t know about. I’ve seen Deathstroke, which looks like a QTE fest. And I’ve heard most of the guys in Knight are tank bosses.
The battank bosses are the worst part of Arkham Knight. A major problem with the game as a whole is that they put in too much stuff to do with the tank, so by the time you get to a boss with it you’re thoroughly sick of it. Add a boss you need to hit huge numbers of times and run away from to tank-stealth after each hit with the less-than-stellar vehicle controls.
Much like Bioshock Infinite there’s a surprisingly good story with clear attention to the source material and how characters interact, undercut by boring and/or overused combat
Getting bonus XP lets you get the cool toys and health upgrades faster, but I very much suspect there’s enough XP in the game that even if you potato through all the fights you’ll get close to maxed.
Also a lot of the later fights tend to throw in more of the titan goons which you don’t really fight normally anyway.
(This is related to the weakness Christopher is talking about. In Dark Souls you use the same combat system against a giant flying dragon as you do against a scrawny zombie and it works for both and you don’t need any special buttons, QTEs, context prompts, or anything to make it do it. Batman’s combat system only really works properly against normal mooks, even a slightly bigger mook needs a gamey “wait for it to run into the wall” mechanic to make Batman fight it effectively).
Very much looking forward to the Arkham series!!
Funnily enough, Arkham City was the one game on steam with the highest number of hours played for me for a long time (loved that challenge mode). Until I got into Dark Souls :D
The gameplay loop is so good, I play those games a ton even when I hate the story.
I didn’t realize how much I missed it till I finally picked up Just Cause 3 this weekend. Its Batman but with guns and explosions and no karate (or stealth as far as I can tell).
At least its comparable to Batman in terms of my favorite bits which at the tethering, grappling and gliding. And in terms of the characters being heroes in spite of disproportionate amounts of violence and property damage. I’m sure the people will appreciate living in freedom with zero energy infrastructure when Rico is done.
I think what happened to the Exalts in Josh’s XCOM Enemy Within game is that he may have been hacking the comms terminals with the covert operative? Basically every time Bradford says you’ve ‘successfully hacked EXALT communications’, the game unloads the gun of every exalt enemy on the map (to represent them trying to reestablish secure lines).
This effect can last for a while in the capture the point mission, because the exalt guys will rush the capture zone with double moves, and thus not spend any actions reloading.
Those EXALT missions with the hackable comms towers and an operative with Mimetic Skin were some of the best fun I had with XCOM: if you played carefully and hacked each tower two turns apart you could get 8 turns of EXALT not being able to fire back at you while you mowed down the ones in the map when you arrived, then set up overwatch to mow down the ones running into the map when you’d finally exhausted towers to hack. I’m pretty sure I finished some of those missions without them ever taking a shot at me.
Also, my funniest moment with XCOM happened during one of the EXALT missions, on one of the constructions maps: I’d sent a mech with jump jets up to a tiny platform in the middle of the map to get line of sight, when a sniper dropped from a helicopter right next to him. The mech guy also had the punch ability, so he wound up and punched the sniper off the platform…where he promptly fell down on top of a cement mixer which exploded(!) and killed another EXALT operative who’d been hiding behind it(!!). My brothers who were watching and I probably laughed a few minutes straight.
Another thing I don’t really like about XCOM2 when compared to its direct predecessor is the geoscape. For those who don’t know, your flying HQ ship spends most of its time flying around the globe and ‘scanning’ various things on the ground (new regional contacts, radio mast construction sites, resource drops etc). These scans all take 3-7 days.
Frequently, you’ll be interrupted in this scans by missions popping up (most missions suddenly happen, in the same way they did in XCOM:EU). In EU/EW, this was because XCOM was the reactive force to an alien invasion; you fought back whenever the aliens picked a fight.
In XCOM2, you are the resistance. Supposedly you should be the one setting the time table of the missions (and to be fair, the Facility missions do work that way). But instead, you’ll be expanding your networks or something and suddenly get called to fly halfway around the world to fight in a mission before you get to come back and continue the scan.
It doesn’t feel like you are the resistance. It doesn’t feel like you are the one with the strategic initiative. You are still the reactive force, constantly getting interrupted by the aliens in your little empire building minigame.
This is something that the game does consider, but it doesn’t necessarily communicate as effectively as it could.
“The Resistance” exists as a loose bunch of individual rabblerousers, not as a coherent, centralized organization. That’s why building your network is described as “Making Contact” with a region rather than “Building Base”, and the resulting animation is of you landing in an existing (if janky looking) haven already full of people. The missions you get are pretty explicitly framed as opportunities that those mooks are able to scrounge up for you, the handsome and capable special forces guys, to execute while the window is available. It’s less being interrupted by the aliens than it is being interrupted by the number crunchers at Resistance HQ and by anonymous hackers and arsonists scattered around the globe. They do their thing (intel gathering and minor sabotage) and you do your thing (slay the ayy away).
It’d arguably work better if they cut back on the fawning over you as Commander. You’re not the overall leader of the resistance – Agent 47 is still feeding you orders and report cards – you’re just the head of the Murder Department.
I think the base mechanics of the game actually make a lot more sense from the perspective of being a band of guerillas that strike at a much larger enemy whenever the opportunity presents itself, rather than hanging around waiting for the aliens to attack. I don’t think XCom 2 necessarily communicates it well, though. I’d probably put “communication” as its number one weakness, particularly going off this podcast.
That seems fair. It’s been kind of maddening to listen to Josh and Ruts do the “Here’s the problem with XCOM 2; you have to [describes something that you should never, ever do]” routine, but it speaks to a need to tutorialize how some of the systems fit together rather than just doing the “here’s how to move and shoot with your army mans” lesson and cutting you loose.
Yeah, this was my frustration too. I was listening and the whole time I was just going “God no. Stop doing that. That’s terrible…”
I feel like making everything into a tutorial is the worse, brute-force solution. If certain mechanics, incentives, or playstyles are supposed to be “correct”, the game should be making that information more easily accessible to you, instead of just popping up a box to annoy you constantly. One major way the game hinders a player discovering critical information on their own, is the slow animations scattered throughout the game. In the original X-COM*, if a new player clicked on the “funding” button to find out what it was, they would immediately come to the monthly funding screen, with a graph showing what countries were supplying what money. In the new games, you have to go through at least 3 seconds of animations per menu-click, and there’s many more levels of menus to go through. Exploring the UI goes from a reasonably quick, non-intrusive task, to a slow, painful thing, which incentivizes players just skipping everything.
You’re not wrong about the strategic layer. That said, I feel it at least compares favorably to XCOM. That one was even worse.
“Bob Case (The Tasteful Understated Nerdrage guy) will be contributing to the site.”
My problem with XCOM2 was the bug where walls couldn’t decide whether they existed or not. So every time you ran into cover it was a complete crapshoot on whether or not enemies (and the player) had line of sight. After my 5th experience of getting shot from the other side of a building I refunded the game as I was still in my first 2 hours.
XCOM2 has a lot of walls with holes, and it inherits the idea from its predecessor that while in cover, a unit is also considered to be 5ft-stepping (to use a DnD term) out to either side for LOS purposes. So to be not seen, you need to have full shield cover for the square you’re in, and the two adjacent squares.
It is a poorly explained mechanic, in both games, but if you’ve played an archer DnD 3.5, most of the ideas might seem a lot more familiar.
Other non-intuitive rules:
-cover only counts if you’re touching it. Otherwise it might block LOS if there’s enough, but it won’t give you defense or crit protection
-if you’re not touching cover, you’re not 5ft stepping and thus less cover is needed to block LOS than if you’re touching it
-cover is fully effective until the enemy shoots at a 90 degree or greater angle to where it faces, than you’re fully flanked (remember that everyone in cover 5ft steps out to either side; that’s why shooting directly around a corner you’re touching denies the cover of the alien just around said corner).
“cover is fully effective until the enemy shoots at a 90 degree or greater angle to where it faces, than you're fully flanked”
I feel like this one isn’t all that unintuitive. If cover is supposed to be “a thing between the guy getting shot and the guy shooting”, and the world is broken up into squares, then 90 degrees is the logical outcome*. The wall is between us, until the enemy is on my left or right side, or is behind me. That seems fairly straightforward to me.
* For a perfectly straight wall; I don’t remember exactly how it works for crooked walls.
The problem is that the 89 degree edge case looks really silly. Consider this battlefield:
That guy is still in cover, despite the alien having a clean shot on his center of mass.
I understand why they did it, the alternative is to set the cutoff at 45 degrees which is a lot harder to judge at a glance, but it’s visually unintuitive because the wall isn’t really “between” the alien and the guy there.
Or,you know,to trace the bullets as they fly,instead of using the binary pass/fail system.
I don’t mind the simplification of the UI of the first game; In fact I think it helps make the game more easily enjoyed, and easily learned. The over-simplification of the underlying game mechanics on the other hand, lowered my enjoyment of the game, because I could so easily see the seams of the fake game-world they’d constructed. :S
I feel like that’s a much LESS intuitive cover system. The existing one is clear whereas ‘how much profile of the soldier I can see past the cover’ is a lot harder to judge at a glance
No its not.Take different angles option you can turn on.It slightly increases the bonus as you go towards the full flank.Its not that easy to see at a glance,but thats why you have the “+%” displayed to help you with that.Same can be done with tracing the bullets.The only difference would be that when you are behind a cover,even if you arent hugging it,youd still get some bonus from it,and if you fire point blank,you wouldnt have a minuscule chance to hit with a rookie.
FWIW, XCOM 2 implements a slightly more modest form of the Aiming Angles option from EU/EW, wherein the 89 degree angle guy is shooting at a net of about -5% rather than the usual -40% associated with high cover. You don’t get the +40% Crit associated with a full-blown flank, but at least some attention went into making those edge cases less annoying.
Line of sight in XCOM 2 is odd, because from what I’ve heard some people have a lot of trouble figuring it out, while others (like myself*) pick it up intuitively. I’d say it could stand to have some more explanation/a tutorial about it, but I wonder if the developers were all so used to it and/or just picked it up intuitively that they never considered some people might need help with it.
*A few weeks after XCOM 2 came out I saw a large graphic someone had made detailing all kinds of situations regarding LOS and explaining them, checked it to see what I didn’t know (as I’d heard people complaining about LOS and wondered if I’d missed anything important) and realized that I already knew all of it just from playing a few missions, barring a single minor edge case that wasn’t very common.
XCOM 2 also took inspiration from Massive Chalice so it displays an icon on enemies you can shoot when you hover over a possible move location, it even displays flanks if I recall correctly.
I need to step in and defend the honour of Terror From the Deep: It’s not nearly as bullshit as XCOM 2013. The scenario Rutskarn described of TPKing to a turn 1 grenade is completely avoidable, you should always smoke grenade the vehicle entrance so that you have a safezone to start from (in old X-COM, smoke grenades actually block visibility, it’s not just a minor accuracy penalty). Just like X-COM, TFTD was fair in that if you died, it was almost always your fault. Should have scouted better, shouldn’t have ended your turn out of cover, should have had more snipers ready to kill that dude your scout found…
XCOM 2013 on the other hand, sometimes you will find a pod of aliens, you’ll miss a couple shots and thus fail to kill them in one turn, and then on their turn they’ll crit you through hard cover and your best guy just dies turning the mission into a rout, there’s nothing you can do about it. The real bullshit in XCOM isn’t the powers or the mission contrivances, it’s the fact that no matter how skillfully you play, you are completely helpless to mitigate the bottom five percent of dicerolls. Original X-COM could theoretically still kill you in an unavoidable way, but with its larger squad size and fact that it doesn’t actively punish scouting, it was more of a one in a million chance than a one in twenty.
No. The original X-COM may have been fair, but TFTD was not fair. Yes, it had many of the nasty surprises that the original had, and the same means of avoiding them, but it also majorly boosted the stats of all aliens while nerfing every weapon humans could use.
The aliens could now throw grenades from beyond your LOS range (and see you from that far), they had flying chrysalids with more time units that spawned in hard to reach nooks and crannies in the ceiling, they had lobstermen that were close to immune to most weapons, every alien base assault started with a night fight mission with psionic blaster bomb wielders in big sniping towers at the centre of the map that you didn’t get to shoot back into due to LOS shennanigans and terror missions had aliens literally hiding in the showers and closets, to kill you with reaction fire the second you checked if they were empty (and you couldn’t bring enough grenades for all closets on the map).
TFTD was deliberately made to be more difficult for XCOM veterans to enjoy, but for most it was just more frustrating.
Enemies can grenade you from outside LOS, but they could already see and shoot you from outside LOS and you shouldn’t be grouping your dudes too close anyway. As soon as you get your first blaster launcher, you get to nuke the sniping towers. Closets can have their walls knocked down.
TFTD was certainly harder, and I think it was a worse game for being needlessly difficult. Maybe you can argue that it was so difficult that it became fundamentally unfair for it, but it wasn’t bullshit, there was no losing a mission because one dude got instakilled by a crit through hard cover.
TFTD’s difficulty is a bit notorious, moreso how it came about.
Y’see, the original UFO Enemy Unknown secretly only had one difficulty level. Sure, there were five you could choose from and they nominally had effects, but after the first tactical mission a bug in the game made it reset to the easiest (where the enemies all had half their normal accuracy and armour and there were less of them), so people complained that it was too easy.
In response, TfTD made the base alien stats better and the player’s equipment much worse, functionally made every mission a night mission, and then fixed the bug so you were playing on the difficulty you thought you were not Beginner every time (and put in more two part missions).
This is clearly disproven by the large, large number of people who are able to consistently clear Classic/Commander and Impossible/Legendary difficulties with 0 or close to 0 soldier deaths in both XCOM and XCOM2. You’re free to dislike the new games, but this is a clearly and wildly off-base assertion to sling around.
Consistent zero deaths on max difficulty of XCOM 2012? No savescumming or retrying the opening few missions in order to get a good run going? I have real trouble believing that’s a thing, but I’d hate to be That Noob who insists everything they dislike is overpowered nerf plz. So instead I’ll ask: Source? Where are you getting that a large number of people consistently do this? Forum chatter, LPs? If the latter, link please.
I recommend watching some of Beaglerush’s Playthroughs: https://www.youtube.com/user/Beaglerush/videos
Some are incomplete, but he does Missions on Legendary with 0 casuallty very consistently.
A guy named Zemalf did an Impossible Ironman run with zero casualties as well (even got an article in PC Gamer), though in his case he freely admitted that at least some of it was more due to luck than strategy.
To be fair, I have no idea how many people are able to pull off stuff like this with any consistency; I’ve never played above the normal difficulty level myself.
Zemalf’s claim to fame wasn’t beating it without losing any soldiers, it was without losing any countries. That part is more heavily RNG dependent, since normally on Impossible you lose 3 or so on the first month regardless of what you do.
Ah, thanks for jogging my memory. I remember now that it was more the whole “not losing pretty much anything it’s possible to lose” aspect rather the soldiers specifically.
So what everyone is saying is that X-/XCOM is the Dark Souls of turn-based isometric strategy…
Not really. Because when something kills you in a Souls game it’s almost invariably your fault. Not so in XCOM 2, where you’re beholden to the whims of RNG.
That both isn’t and very much is what I meant.
No,what everyone is saying is that dark souls is x-com of third person action games.
Sort of. Mostly in that the game has been balanced around the most obsessive fans who play in exploitative non-intuitive manners kinda like beaglerush and how catchphrases like “Prepare to die” and “That’s XCOM baby” are eating actual game design.
The fun for me in these games is using your own ingenuity to figure things out and being able to experiment with your own strategies, so the whole current trend of the developers pigeonholing everybody into fewer and fewer play styles (No more slow play in XCOM for you!)(We’re going to force you to be ultra aggressive in souls from now on!) is just uggghgh. F that.
I actually recently decided to put some time into Overwatch competitive and also did so with my brother, but I had the opposite fortune. I was winning pretty consistently, then started queuing with my brother and then lost about 12 matches out of 14. My brother got frustrated and got off, played one match alone and dominated..
But oh well, I’d rather have fun and play with my brother, but I do agree that if you want people to even kinda take the game seriously, comp is the only option. Even after they made Quick Play one hero lock; people don’t care about winning.
Actually since you talked about competitive Overwatch this is a good time to field the question. Are you excited for the upcoming balance changes designed around nerfing Ana/Roadhog/D’va to try to cut back on the triple tank meta?
22:10 “That’s X-COM!” -Beaglerush
I dont know about others,but I liked Chris talking about steep much more than Josh talking about overwatch.Next time,instead of asking Josh what he has been playing,go back to Chris.
Though Josh talking about horse dynasties was fun.
Seconded. I think the difference is that Chris was talking about Steep, which is interesting if you like videogames, and Josh wasn’t so much talking about Overwatch but running hot in Overwatch, which is less interesting unless you care about Josh’s MMR.
Or maybe I just prefer the way Chris talks, who knows.
Gotta second this, even though I enjoyed the Overwatch talk. It was interesting in terms of how the mindset of just one team member can have such a strong effect on outcome, wish they would’ve ran with that instead of treating it like a monologue.
Before I say this, I know I might be totally off base, and I’m definitely overstepping my rights as a fan to ponder this out loud, but like…
I’m always wishing Chris would put his thoughts out more. And hearing him say something like “I’d join the game and lose it for everyone immediately, and besides I’d have to get to your level to play” was just sad as all hell, especially with Josh straight up inviting him, and saying it should be soon so he could help him rank up. As in he’d do all that cause he’d dig playing with Chris just that much. Like, dude – if you don’t want to play, just say so instead of all this hem and haw nonsense, or if it’s genuine, I mean, my god man. I hope he’s alright, that there’s not something serious going on in his life that’d cause that sort of mentality. Otherwise, I don’t get why he would be in such an awful place for self esteem or motivation or whatever it is.
Cause his last set of Errant Signal vids have been a solid level above what was already awesomely thought out and on point content, and it’s been fantastic viewing and contemplation. That alone would leave me with practically unassailable confidence, not to mention getting to be a part of such a cool circle of people to work with on a regular basis. Mind you, I’m not trying to come off as jealous or anything, just that I admire any person with those sort of abilities in that sort of position.
I just can’t figure it, like is he afraid of sounding dumb? Or interrupting? Has he listened to this podcast? That’s half the damn fun of it – hearing Ruts and Josh and Shamus make dumb pun jokes and pedantic rants, interjections and random tangents, and whatever comes to mind. I’d love more rants and dumb jokes from Chris, that’s the sort of stuff I’m here for! You know, besides the incisive commentary on the state of the modern entertainment industry and the game du jour, of course.
Which makes me think – this whole running joke sorta thing with “this show sucks, it can’t get any worse, why would popular person X ever want to be here, etc” is getting to be a drag. And don’t get me wrong, I do love that kind of humor – I’ve been a Primus fan since the age of 12, who’s catchphrase was simply “Primus Sucks”, enough so that it was the URL for their website up until a few years ago. But at a certain point, that sort of joke starts becoming a reality, if only just from blowing whatever enthusiasm exists. After enough of it, it can start becoming a self fulfilling idea. It’s insidious, especially if there’s even the slightest doubt in what’s being done.
I don’t know. My apologies if any of the crew would read this before it gets swept under the rug of the next post and be offended, or other fans take it in an unintended way, but I had to say something. This podcast makes my Mondays not suck for an hour every week, which believe me is a feat, I look forward to Spoiler Warning like a little kid waiting for his favorite cartoon to come on all through the week, and I have too much gratitude to stand by and listen to that kind of undeserved negativity.
Either way I’m gonna keep plugging in to this place daily just like I’ve been for years now, all I hope is to hear more from Chris, and that they all actually do know how genuinely cool what they have here is, and at least from my perspective, precious and even soul affirming, for lack of more appropriate terms.
Maybe I have it just completely wrong, but on the slim chance any of this is relevant, I had to say it. All the respect.
Yay, I’ll get to find out more about GOT without having to wade through artistic porn (the shows) or some long and apparently rape-heavy books. Plot & characters without all the extraneous sex, yay.
Say what you want about terror from the deep,but zrbite > elerium.
As in, you think the name is cooler? (Cause I can’t recall any other difference).
That,and also zrbite is used to build things that can work under well under water.Clearly a superior thing.
If I remember the horse glitch correctly, it’s kind of involved to kick off.
Basically, your horse cannot have children, but if it’s in the right position of power, the game starts generating courtiers for it of the horse nationality, and those don’t have the flag set, so you can marry them and have children.
Yeah, I was able to pull it off. Get hold of a male horse. Have Free Investiture. Name your horse the successor to a Prince-Bishopric. Assassinate the current bishop or wait for him to die. When your horse is in a position of power, horse-people to come to his court. Your original horse can’t breed, but the horse-people courtiers can, so marry them off to your children.
I feel you man… I feel you.
Great news about the new contributor to the site! And a new game, cool! So many neat things coming out in the next few weeks!
The dying broadcast television networks are waking up to how badly people want to do away with broadcast television and to a lesser extent cable television. They rightly see streaming services as their main competition.
To the dinosaurs, this situation is horrifying and must be fought at all costs. They’ve shaped popular culture for decades (less so for the last decade, but they weren’t paying attention until more recently), and they see it was their right to keep shaping popular culture. Therefore, they’re going to keep as much of their content off of the streaming services as possible.
The thing is: it’s a losing battle. No one ever really wanted broadcast television, they just tolerated it until consumer media recording was available. It’s not about piracy: it’s about watching what you want to watch when you want to watch it. Since my household adopted VHS early, my TV viewing habits revolved around recording things to watch later, and very rarely watching broadcasts directly. Nobody ever actually wanted their viewing schedule dictated by some network executive.
Even live TV is obsolete because now it’s just the same as live streaming plus a budget and professional crew.
But while the dinosaurs draw breath, they will fight extinction. When the networks are finally dead, then we’ll get everything on the streaming services. We just have to wait a little longer.
EDIT: By the way, if you think that the networks going away means the end of television shows you actually want to see, that’s backwards thinking. Standard budgets are going to need to be cut, but everything is going Indie. There’s going to be more good shows than ever before, and they’ll be produced in places you’ve never seen before. Just like the Indie Game market.
But in videogames, the rise of the indies didn’t also mean the death of AAA. Networks going away won’t kill television, but it will kill big budget productions, and there are some shows, some entire genres, that can only be made with a large budget, for the same reason an indie team can’t make GTA 5.
Many of them will not die,just transform.Heck,most networks already offer some kind of internet based service.
Most broadcasters actually deliver the majority of their content via on demand streaming and download services these days, in my experiences of UK, Australian and US services. The US (DirectTV) probably offers the least, and Foxtel in Australia the best (not got the latest SkyQ UK via yet so I don’t know how that compares to Aus in detail). And they’ve struck deals to provide e.g. BBC iPlayer access through the sky STB.
The great majority of series can be watched on demand for no extra fee, there is a pretty good range of movies. There is of course recording of 100+ hours of programs. Foxtel allow you to scroll the TV channel listings in to the past (don’t remember if it is 1 day or 1 week) and stream anything you missed (90% of stuff is available on that service).
DirectTV has the least choice, the least stuff available for free (no extra fee), and nor at many streaming service features as the others, but I’ve not worked with their latest top end hardware so I don’t know what that supports.
Basically, the traditional broadcasters, rather than dying with the dinosaurs, are actually learnt the pack in the range and quality of on demand streaming and download stuff in my experience.
So Shamus, when you say you’re doing your next long form on Arkham City, are you talking about it from a game design, mechanical perspective, or is it another plot deconstruction? Because I think there’s an audience for talking about why Batman’s combat feels so good, and whether or not the open world was a good idea, but I’d be surprised if a tenth as many people cared about that game’s plot as the Mass Effect series.
He already did the plot for city,so chances are he wont go into details there.
I’m really interested in what this Arkham series is going to be. It’s a really unusual game series and there’s a lot of angles I could imagine you taking. (Of course Asylum will forever be the best game in the series :p I got tired of their overly brutal Batman and less attached to the story as the series went on)
Btw, do people feel like the Arkham franchise still has legs? It’s had a bad run with Arkham Origins being viewed as ‘not real’ and Arkham Knight having all those bugs, but I can’t imagine the publisher letting the franchise slip away, even if the original developers are different.
Personally no, but that’s because Asylum was the best one and it feels like the series has done nothing but move away from Asylum’s strengths. In the unlikely event that they return to form and make another metroidvania without the stupid car, I’m in.
I also liked Asylum best, but I think we’re in the minority. I would have to guess the fan fave is City, which was fine, but just a bit too unfocused for my taste. An early warning of how out of control “open world” would become.
I’m not gonna complain when they do a good reboot in like five years, but I don’t want more of the same.
I wish they’d bring this kind of gameplay to a different franchise, with a different mood and gadgets. To me, Blade would be the obvious choice.
I could go for a big tonal reboot, but I would want them to make it lighter and have more of a cartoony feel. Not like, Wind Waker. But more TAS and less of whatever GRIT it is they layered on top of it.
Technically,that already exists.Its called bloodrayne 1 and 2.Both excellent games.
Personally,Id like the arkham games to do superman next.Either as a young boy still learning his powers,or a weird break from that in a game where superman is poisoned and is slowly losing his powers while searching for the antidote.
Thanks! I’ll be sure to check out Bloodrayne.
I played a Blade2 game on PS2. It had nailed the tone pretty well, but the mechanics were really weird (right stick is your directional melee, which makes for a different and reasonably intuitive approach to crowd control, but didn’t work that well in practice) and the inventory system punishing. As a result, it was hard as balls.
After watching Spoiler Warning do Arkham Asylum, I have resolved to stay far, far away from the Arkham games. I can’t stand the character design. The people in that game are a terrifying collection of grotesque meat-sacks with tiny heads. It’s almost tolerable in the case of the zillions upon zillions of thugs, but Commissioner Gordon should NOT look like that. I didn’t think much of the plot, either.
It’s too bad. I’m a big fan of the animated series, but the presence of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill just isn’t enough for me to put up with the rest.
I’ve apparently played Crusader Kings 2 for over 30 hours. Yet every time I try to get back into it, I still feel completely lost on what I should be doing.
I’ve played it for 113 hours, and am still completely overwhelmed by it. Europa Universalis IV only took me about 40 hours to feel like I had a grip on it, but CK II is still confusing (I think part of it is the constant turnover of characters as people die off and get replaced by new ones).
…I’ve spent almost 1000 hours on Crusader Kings.
Barring the fact that I’m still terrible at it, most of the game is almost second nature to me. I also find myself implicitly symphatising with Tywin Lannister as a result.
The thing that stopped my Xcom 2 playthrough in its tracks was the addition of all the cosmetic options for customizing your team. They even went so far as to have dlc cosmetics. In Xcom 1 I never cared just played the game, maybe changed a voice to fit with nationality and a colour here or there. In Xcom 2 I decided to embrace it and make all these different characters but when I got to the point where I researched improved armor all those customizations DISAPPEAR. You lose all of your options and instead are given a meager selection of improved armor cosmetics. I don’t care about realism.
If I’m going to go through the time and effort to customize my squads looks then by god let me maintain that through armor upgrades. There were some mods on workshop that did this but at the time none that included all the dlc options. If anyone knows of a mod that allows me to use all cosmetic options through armor upgrades and it includes all cosmetic dlc please let me know because I’d love to play Xcom 2 again even if it is just worse than Xcom 1.
So there’s this mod:
It allows you to use previous generations of weapons and armor as if they are of best tech quality. Looks like it hasn’t updated for a while and I don’t have the DLCs so I can’t speak for that. I used it to outfit my mad gunslingers (which I loved) with revolvers, they just didn’t feel right with beam pistols. So, use at your risk but I hope this may help you.
Reading the comments it has people saying that it does not include Anarchy DLC but I’ll load it up and see if it’s true. Here’s hoping! I appreciate the link as I have yet to encounter this particular mod.
I do not listen to the podcast (not my thing), thank you for putting the important announcements in the post.
I can’t believe how much of the comment thread is Xcom. Wow, I guess good venues to discuss the series are hard to find…
Discussing xcom is the xcom of discussions.
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